A minor road turns off the B6318 in the centre of Gilsland and heads roughly south west towards Upper Denton and Chapelburn. The last building on the left as it leaves the village is the large, but sadly derelict, old vicarage. A little way beyond it there is a car park, also on the left.
A path across the fields between the car park and the vicarage leads to a railway crossing and, beyond it, to the Poltross Burn Milecastle. There is also a little visited stretch of Hadrian's Wall leading south east across the fields beyond from the vicarage, but this seems difficult to access. A much better bet is to cross the minor road and pick up the signposted track to the farm at Willowford. This follows a very well preserved length of Hadrian's Wall that includes two turrets and is in all nearly two thirds of a mile long.
Most fascinating of all, the length of wall concludes at the eastern abutment of Willowford bridge, built by the Romans to carry the wall over the River Irthing towards Birdoswald Roman Fort. This is a lovely walk through magnificent countryside, and one that gives a wonderful impression of what this length Hadrian's Wall was really like.
The walk breaks down into three distinct phases. To start with you follow a farm track along the south side of the wall, which includes the obvious remains of Turret 48a. A little way along, it becomes clear that the valley of the River Irthing has closed considerably from the north, and for the first time you begin to appreciate the strong defensive line taken by this length of the wall. In Roman times woodland in the river valley would presumably have been cleared to ensure the approach to the wall from the north offered no cover.
After a few hundred yards, you reach a point where the farm track crosses to the north side of the wall. Here you have a decision to make: do you follow the farm track along the foot of the vallum excavated in front of the wall, or do you follow the footpath along the south side of the wall. As this is, inevitably, an out-and-back walk the obvious solution is to take route one on the outward trip, and the other on the return. The footpath gives a wonderful "defenders' eye" view of the Roman side of the wall, and you get a very good view of the way the foundations built to support the originally planned "broad wall" project out from beneath the narrow wall that was actually built here.
The farm track along the floor of the vallum offers a much less immediate view of the wall, but there are places in which it is possible to climb the north side, giving magnificent views of the whole defensive complex: the vallum and the wall beyond it to the south, and the steep drop into the valley of the River Irthing to the north.
The remains of Turret 48b stand close to the buildings of Willowford Farm, which themselves stand immediately to the south of the wall and in an angle formed by it. Beyond the farm, Hadrian's Wall drops steeply to the floor of the valley of the River Irthing. Those following the wall do so using a long flight of stone steps immediately to the north of the wall. A dead straight stretch of wall then leads across the flood plain to a conclusion formed by a larger stone structure.
At first sight this appears to be another turret, though it is considerably more substantial than the two you have so far passed on the walk. It turns out to be the bridge abutments built on this side of the River Irthing to support a bridge carrying the wall over the river. The structure is some way short of the river itself, which reflects the way the river's course has moved to the west, a process that removed any trace of the abutments built on what was then the western side of the river. Interpretation boards show how the Romans built three different bridges at this location during their occupation, and it is fascinating trying to interpret the remains you can still see on the ground with the pictures of what was actually built.